Deep within a voluminous 10-year energy master plan proposed for New York State are a few paragraphs that give some environmentalists and local politicians fits but give some in the natural gas industry encouragement: The paragraphs say the state might need liquefied natural gas-receiving facilities to meet its energy needs.
The plan was prepared on orders from Gov. David A. Paterson in April as he shot down a Broadwater Energy proposal for a floating liquefied natural gas processing plant in Long Island Sound. (Click here to read a draft of the report.)
Broadwater is dead now unless the promoter goes to court and manages to overturn Paterson's decision. But some Long Islanders are just as worried about another gas proposal -- the Atlantic Sea Island Group "Safe Harbor Energy" terminal -- that would be on a man-made island 13.5 miles south of Long Beach. It would accept liquefied gas from ships, heat it, turn it back into a gas, then pipe it to shore.
"The state should take specific steps to encourage investment in natural gas infrastructure, including LNG facilities," a paragraph in the state plan says. And another says, "While it would be preferable not to depend upon imported energy supplies . . . avoidance of additional gas imports may not be sustainable in the long run, [and] having the flexibility to be able to accept LNG imports could . . . serve to put downward pressure on prices in the future . . ."
At a Sept. 9 hearing on the plan in Farmingdale - and a small rally outside before it - some environmentalists said gas imported from abroad did nothing to reduce the nation's dependence on foreign energy and is a relatively dirty form of power because energy is needed to return the super cold liquefied gas to a gaseous state. "New York needs clean energy, not dirty, expensive foreign energy," said Rav Freidel of Montauk, speaking for the environmental group Concerned Citizens of Montauk.
But Matthew Cordaro, a former senior vice president at the Long Island Lighting Co. who is now dean of Dowling College's business school, said at the hearing that the state plan "places too much reliance on the capability of conservation and efficiency programs," to temper growth in energy demand. And an Atlantic vice president, Ronald Lukas, told the hearing "natural gas produces fewer greenhouse emissions than other fossil fuels."
The state plan forecasts a 5 percent increase in demand for natural gas by 2020, to 1.3 trillion cubic feet for residential, commercial and power-generation uses with most of the increase downstate.
But the plan stops short of endorsing any particular project.
Atlantic Sea Island
Atlantic Sea Island Group chairman Howard Bovers said in an interview that an environmental-impact statement for the project is 75 percent complete. Another round of federal hearings will follow, after which the U.S. Maritime Administration can issue a deepwater port permit for the terminal - if New York and New Jersey approve. "If things go well for us, we can have it by the end of the year," Bovers said. Construction could begin in the spring and could be completed in four years, he said.
The Broadwater project, which proposed to put a 1,200-foot-long terminal in Long Island Sound halfway between Wading River and New Haven, Conn. - was approved by the Federal Regulatory Commission. Paterson's veto of it was subsequently upheld by the U.S. Department of Commerce. Shell and TransCanada, the parents of Broadwater, haven't decided yet whether to fight that in court, Shell spokeswoman Teresa Covington said.
Liberty Natural Gas
Another liquefied natural gas proposal, for an offshore buoyed connection, has been made by Liberty Natural Gas, a New Jersey-based unit of Canadian Superior Energy of Calgary. The connection would rise to the surface 16.5 miles east of Asbury Park when needed to accept already re-gassified gas from ships. Liberty spokesman Steven Some said the company hopes to apply for a deepwater permit by June.
One more liquefied gas proposal known as BlueOcean Energy was announced in late 2007 by ExxonMobil. It would be similar to Broadwater's and be 20 miles east of the Jersey shore and about 30 miles south of Nassau County. An ExxonMobil spokesman said it is preparing federal applications and gave no timetable.